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Home is where the action is

She spent the first few years of her life in Calcutta and she keeps coming back to her “favourite city” at the slightest opportunity. This time, the opportunity is a little more than slight.

Charlotte Hayward — her grandfather Eric Hayward’s surname has launched a thousand beer parties — is here to play Dorothy, an executive producer of a British television channel, in Arekti Premer Galpo, the gay love story that marks director Rituparno Ghosh’s debut as an actor.

If the name rings a distant bell, think Chokher Bali and remember the phirang lady’s brief appearance as a vomiting missionary who is looking for “7 Darzi Para Street”.

“It was a tiny part I had in Chokher Bali that came from nowhere. If you blinked, you’d miss me. But it was great fun. This time, I think I’ll have a few more words to speak,” chuckles Charlotte, on the first day of her shoot for the Kaushik Ganguly film.

Her father Sir Anthony Hayward was the head of Shaw Wallace when she spent her childhood in Ballygunge and Alipore. After several years of teaching children with special needs in London, Charlotte is now parked in Goa, running a boutique hotel set up with her brother Simon.

So how did Arekti Premer Galpo happen? An “unexpected call” from Raima Sen did it. “I am here because of Raima and because I have great confidence in Rituparno’s judgment,” says Charlotte, a friend of Moon Moon Sen.

Chokher Bali, in May 2003, had also happened out of the blue. She had “just dropped by” to see Raima on the sets, when she was “roped in for a retch” by Rituparno.

At a city studio, between brushing her hair and touching up her make-up, she laughed: “I’m not used to so much attention really! But it’s just wonderful being in Calcutta and even more exciting to act. What happens on the sets is normal for everyone but a lot of fun for me.”

Charlotte can go on talking tirelessly about Calcutta, her second home. “I’m always very biased when it comes to Calcutta. It’s the city with the most character.... The houses (I lived in) are still there but the present owners might have painted it a bright yellow or purple! I wouldn’t want to see it changed. I’d rather go to the Oxford Bookstore or Chemould or try the fresh cream scone at Flurys if it’s still available. There’s an old flower seller in New Market who still recognises me and imitates the way my grandmother used to walk!”

For Charlotte — who plans to pen a book on India for which she has done some research in Bengal — home now means the Vivenda Dos Palhacos in Goa. “I always wanted to live and work in India. My brother bought an old house in the Goan village of Majorda, restored it and we made it habitable. We have such villas in Europe but not here,” she smiled, before getting into lights-camera-action mode.

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